Undergraduate volunteers from the Department of Physics presented kid-friendly demonstrations last week at the 2020 Family Science Night at Franklin School, Corvallis.

The activities and demonstrations focused on mechanical phenomena: Marbles racing down tracks, carts on a frictionless rail, a chain fountain, and weight lifting with pulleys and double pulleys. In addition to mechanics, there were some new demos related to the physics of air included a curve-ball demonstration with paper cups, and a cloud in bottle.

Many thanks to our undergraduate volunteers Steve Nieman, Ryan French, Stephanie Keyes, and Genevieve Connolly, and faculty mentors Weihong Qiu and Ethan Minot.

Physics will attend several more Family Science Nights at local schools in the upcoming weeks.

With departmental funding and an SPS travel grant, undergraduate student Acacia Patterson attended PhysCon, the 2019 Physics Congress, in Providence, Rhode Island 11/14-11/16. Over 1000 people attended the conference, which is hosted by the jointly by Sigma Pi Sigma and the Society of Physics Students and has occurred every 4 years since 1928. A group of OSU students attended the last conference in San Francisco, California.

Acacia Patterson at PhysCon 2019

The 2019 Congress began with tours at Harvard, MIT, and Brown physics departments and at Optikos Corporation, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Naval Submarine Base New London, and Rhode Island Hospital. The conference included speeches on the work of Einstein and Eddington from Dame S. Jocelyn Bell-Burnett and on the projects of GoogleX and how physics majors can prepare for a career in industry from Sandeep Giri. In addition, there were talks on the use of disruptive technology to mitigate climate change from Ellen Williams, on intellectual property rights from Jami Valentine Miller, and on the Big Bang and the future of astronomy from John Mather. Finally, Jim Gates shared a talk on how to use physics to become like Indiana Jones. A Congress workshop was held in which students brainstormed solutions to the issues that they and their organizations face.

The most important issues which the conference identified were imposter syndrome, mental health, and inclusiveness in physics. Two breakout sessions were offered with topics including science policy and communication, physics careers, physics and astronomy outreach, inclusivity, climate change, and graduate student panels. 

Acacia, who is a member of Janet Tate’s research group, was among the 150 students who presented their research during two poster and art exhibit sessions. Other activities included a lunch with scientists, a demo show at Brown and a tour at the LADD Observatory, a game night with Brown’s SPS chapter, and career and graduate school fairs. Acacia is grateful for this rewarding experience and looks forward to bringing what she learned to OSU. 

Physics research isn’t just for Physics majors. Biophysicist Weihong Qiu hosts students from BioHealth Sciences and Biochemistry in his lab as well.

Haelyn Epp and Weihong Qiu preparing motor protein samples in the lab.

BioHealth student Haelyn Epp used her #SUREScience scholarship to work in a biophysics lab on motor proteins. “My scholarship replaced one of my jobs, [and] allowed me to focus on research in a way I had not been able to,” says Haelyn. Read the full article at:

In January 2019, undergraduate students McKenzie Meyer, Austin Mullins, Acacia Patterson, Elena Wennstrom and Kasey Yoke, accompanied by graduate students Mackenzie Lenz and Nicole Quist, participated in the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP) at the University of Washington. The conference is a venue for students to share their research, to hear from successful women in physics, to learn about graduate school and employment, and to meet other physicists. The participants heard from keynote speaker Dr. Fabiola Gianotti of CERN, and others who discussed their careers and addressed the barriers to the success of women and minorities in STEM. The group also toured condensed matter labs in UW’s physics department and labs at the Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics, which are interested in dark matter, accelerator physics, nuclear physics, and gravity. During the “Physics Slam,” faculty members competed to deliver the most entertaining presentation of their research, and one of the many attendees to present posters was OSU’s Kasey Yoke who authored “Validation of Anti-Neutrino Data from the MINERvA Experiment at Fermilab” co-authored by physics department head Dr. Heidi Schellman. The group also heard from a career panel highlighting the diverse employment opportunities for physicists, and they had the opportunity to meet with representatives of employers in small groups. The participants attended sessions including those on impostor syndrome, applying and succeeding in graduate school, participating in undergraduate research, applying to jobs in the industry, and writing in science. This annual conference is open to all undergraduate physics majors and proved to be an invaluable experience for the attendees. There are several venues around the country where the CUWiP conferences are held simultaneously. OSU hosted the Pacific Northwest CUWiP conference in 2016 and in 2020, the Pacific Northwest CUWiP will be at Washington State University.

Undergraduate volunteers from the Department of Physics presented kid-friendly demonstrations at the annual Family Science Night at Franklin School, Corvallis, on January 24th.

  

The hands-on demonstrations focused on the electromagnetic spectrum, from invisible infra-red wavelengths to ultra-violet wavelengths, and everything in between. With an infra-red camera, kids could see through black plastic bags and discover warm hand prints on the table, and show their parents the heat leaks in a model house. At the other end of the spectrum, kids played with fluorescent markers and brought their artwork to life in a UV light box.

Many thanks to our undergraduate volunteers Rosemary Williams, Garrett Jepson, Christian Wood and Hunter Nelson.

Physics will attend several more Family Science Nights at local schools in the upcoming weeks.

Reposted from impact.science.oregonstate.edu

A senior’s gut decision in high school to major in physics holds steady four years later

Looking back on his gut decision in high school to major in physics after taking a class in it, graduating senior Abe Teklu remains somewhat mystified. “I guess I was just really confident,” he laughs.
Abe grew up around numbers and changing locations, moving from Ethiopia to Arizona at age six when his father got an engineering job at Intel, and then moving to Colorado before his family settled outside of Portland when he was 12.
His family is mathematically inclined. His mom is an accountant and his dad, who not so secretly yearned to be a mathematician, is an engineer who reads calculus books and earned a master’s degree in fluid dynamics. This home field advantage explains some of Abe’s youthful confidence (he “loved math” even as a child) but since then Abe has carried the ball all on his own.
At Oregon State as an Honors physics student, Abe has remained confident – at least most of the time – as well as comfortable with numbers and shifting contexts. He has had three research internships. The first was the summer after his sophomore year when he had a paid internship at Northwestern University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) in Evanston, Illinois, in a rather niche but fascinating area of speculative research called astrobiology. There Abe analyzed mathematical models of theoretical predator-prey systems not limited to planet Earth.
The summer before his junior year, Abe headed down to San Diego for another paid internship, this time at the U.S. Department of Energy’s DIII-D National Fusion Facility. The facilty consists of a tokamak, a magnetic fusion device which Abe describes as “a big metal donut spinning plasma to get fusion energy.” Abe used magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) theory to model plasma confinement, with the goal of understanding which conditions better spread heat flux in the divertor region.
In his third research experience, Abe spent more than two years working in physics department head Heidi Schellman’s Particle Physics Research Group, analyzing neutrino-antineutrino data as part of the MINERvA, a major international research effort exploring matter-antimatter differences in neutrino physics. This involved aiming a beam of neutrinos from Illinois to South Dakota. Specifically, Abe worked on the recoil energies recorded when the rare neutrino-antineutrino reactions hit parallel strips of the scintillator, each of which is connected to a photomultiplier tube that determines how much energy is deposited in a strip.
Abe’s research experiences beyond the classroom gave him many advantages. For one, the DIII-D fusion internship formed the basis for his senior thesis. He also learned valuable lessons about the nature of scientific work.
“Unlike class, where there is always an answer, research is open-ended. It was difficult for me at first, but I came to appreciate that even if you don’t solve a problem, you are contributing to a much larger research effort with scientists around the world that will one day lead to a solution.”
Throughout his four years at OSU, community and relationships were key to Abe’s success, a sentiment reflected in his two top pieces of advice for new students.
“Have as much fun as you can freshman year. Talk toeveryone. You will have the most free time this year and so it’s a great time to meet new people and make friends. It gets harder after that.”
As an Honors College freshman, Abe enjoyed meeting friends in his dorm, Cauthorne, and also hung out in West so often that he was mistaken as a resident. He was and is “surprised by the amount of really smart people here. So many amazing people – and it’s so cool now to see all of my friends going off to exciting new destinations next year, from MIT to Brown to AI research!”
His second piece of advice?
“Talk to professors. Go to office hours. Not just to talk about academics, but just to talk about life. It’s helped me out a lot.”
Some of his favorite professors to hang out with are physicists Corinne Monogue, who he calls a “great teacher and person to talk to about anything at all” and Heidi Schellman. Abe suggests another good reason to talk with professors:  It’s a “great way to start research sooner.”
To wit, when Abe visited to Schellman during her office hours, she began describing her research and Abe just jumped in and asked if he could help.
“That day she gave me a key to her lab and I started doing research!” Two years later, Abe still has a coveted seat in Schellman’s Lab and is currently mentoring a new student to take his place after graduation.
Despite his success at OSU, Abe has faced his share of rejection and challenging times. Before joining the Schellman Lab, he was turned down as a freshman for research positions. The fall of his senior year was a really difficult time. After an intense summer working at the fusion facility DIII-D in San Diego, he returned to campus for a nonstop term which on top of his usual demanding coursework included studying for the Physics GRE, applying to graduate schools, writing his senior thesis and dealing with the inevitable “personal stuff.”
“I was overwhelmed and my confidence was shaken. Was I good enough? I had imposter syndrome. The only thing that got me out of it,” Abe reflects, “was just to endure. I just kept going step by step, every single day. I had to keep going and I did and it finally got better.”
It certainly did. Abe was accepted into the physics Ph.D. program at Stonybrook University in Long Island, New York, remarking with great enthusiasm upon the fact that there are no less than “60-70 physics researchers there!” Not wasting any time, he will jumpstart his graduate research this summer at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, working on a yet-to-be-defined research project with his graduate advisor.
Abe is grateful for the science education he has received at Oregon State and was not surprised when he heard that the Department of Physics recently received a national award for improving undergraduate physics education.
“All of my professors were great,” he said. The junior-year Paradigms in Physics series in particular, which was redesigned to include interactive pedagogies and real-world applications to better reflect how professional physicists think, was a real game-changer for Abe.
“[The junior-year Paradigms in Physics] was hard, but it was great and everyone in the class bonded together. We came out feeling that we could do anything!”
Abe’s gratitude extends to the many scholarships he received that helped cement his choice to go to Oregon State. He received the university’s four-year Academic Achievement award as well as a freshman year Honors College scholarship, a Kenneth S. Krane Scholarship in Physics and a David B. Nicodemus Scholarship in Physics.
Rebecca Grollman, Graham Founds, Rick Wallace and  Oksana Ostroverkhova’s paper “Simultaneous fluorescence and surface charge measurements on organic semiconductor-coated silica microspheres” has been featured by Advances in Engineering  as a key scientific article contributing to excellence in science and engineering research.  See

https://advanceseng.com/simultaneous-fluorescence-surface-charge-measurements/

for a short summary of the paper and a short video highlighting the result.

The American Physical Society has recognized OSU Physics for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education.

We are one of three institutions to receive the award this year. https://www.aps.org/programs/education/undergrad/faculty/awardees.cfm  explains the award and lists previous winners

For 21 years, the physics department at Oregon State has been a national model for its holistic approach to improving the educational experience for undergraduates, from the nationally recognized, upper division curriculum redesign—Paradigms in Physics, through lower‐division reform, thesis research experiences for all majors, and attention to co‐curricular community‐building. We are dedicated to building a strong cohort group of students, prepared for a wide range of careers. For the broader community, we produce and freely share cutting‐edge curricular materials based on our own physics education research.”

Press release from Mississippi State about Physics Alumna Kimberly Wood:

April 9, 2018

https://www.msstate.edu/newsroom/article/2018/04/msu-geosciences-faculty-member-receives-early-career-recognition/

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A tropical cyclone authority at Mississippi State is a new selection for the American Meteorological Society’s Early Career Leadership Academy.

Assistant professor Kimberly Wood soon will be among nearly three dozen 2018 ECLA members receiving special training in Washington, D.C. She came to the Starkville campus three years ago.

Founded in 1919 and headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, the American Meteorological Society is the nation’s premier organization for atmospheric, oceanic and hydrologic sciences. Its 13,000 members include researchers, educators, students, enthusiasts, broadcasters and others in these fields.

Supported by IBM, the AMS leadership academy works to sustain a diverse network of early-career achievers. Creative problem-solving, conflict resolution and enhancement of communication skills are major components of the curriculum.

Wood is a 2012 University of Arizona doctoral graduate in atmospheric science and remote sensing. She became an AMS member in 2008.

“Dr. Wood is the only MSU faculty member that has intentionally flown into the eye of a hurricane to collect data,” noted John Rodgers, interim head of the Department of Geosciences. Alongside experiences with hazardous weather systems, she has “excellent computer modeling skills and extensive knowledge of the application of satellite technologies to meteorology,” he said.

Her research “adds a very important component to our already outstanding meteorology program,” Rodgers added.

Wood said her leadership academy participation “already has borne fruit in the form of expanding connections with colleagues I may never have interacted with outside of such a program.” She also credits “strong support” from MSU colleagues and resources for the development of her chosen career.

Last year, she was selected to represent Mississippi at a congressional visit day organized in the nation’s capital by the American Geophysical Union. After helping stress the importance of continued federal science funding, she was asked by the AGU to also join its Climate Science Day program taking place on Capitol Hill in early 2018.

“I believe both experiences positively contributed to my selection for the ECLA, as well as the vision I have for my scientific career,” Wood said.

Academy membership involves a rigorous evaluation process, with documentation required of major accomplishments, successful experiences communicating across cultures and disciplines, and challenges involving weather, water and climate systems.

Wood is a Beaverton, Oregon, native who earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at Oregon State University. She also holds a master’s in atmospheric sciences from the University of Arizona. More biographical information may be read via the “About Us” link at the departmental website www.geosciences.msstate.edu.

Missions of the American Meteorological Society and Early Career Leadership Academy are online at www.ametsoc.org.

MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences includes more than 5,200 students, 300 full-time faculty members, nine doctoral programs and 25 academic majors offered in 14 departments. Complete details about the College of Arts and Sciences may be found at www.cas.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.

 

Zachary Free helps attendees understand the orbit of planets around the sun in the above picture (All photographs curtesy of Ikaika McFadden).

On Friday March 9th, the OSU Astronomy Club and the Department of physics held the first Astronomy Open House of 2018! The Astronomy Club under Emily Simpson, Rachel Hausmann, Samantha Carrothers, Nathanial Miller, Leon Linebarger, Tyler Parsotan and many dedicated volunteers invited OSU students, adults and children to Weniger Hall to have fun with hands on demonstrations that help explain how astrophysical phenomena work.

Emily Simpson helps attendees determine which scientist they are most like.

Some of the activities included a room dedicated to Mars landing sites, by Rachel Hausmann, an activity dedicated to the mythology behind constellations, by Samantha Carrothers, a test created by Emily Simpson to determine which historical scientist you would be. We also had a presentation on remote telescope observations by local astronomers Tom Carrico, a presentation on telescope tuning by Stephen McGettigan, and the OSU Robotics Club show off their Mars rover!

The OSU Robotics Club show off their rover in Rachel Hausmann’s Mars Landing Sites Room.

Astronomy Tom captivated the attendees with how easy it is to get amazing astronomy photographs.

Over 100 people attended the event and got a free NASA poster for completing each activity! While we weren’t able to have telescopes out for this event due to the weather, future events will have night observations; especially as the weather gets better and better here in Oregon. In order to hear about our next event like us on facebook.com/osuastronights. We hope to see you there!